In general, a student is engaged when:
- Engage in academic, social, and extracurricular activities at all levels in the school (behavioural engagement)
- Participates in school activities and feels like a member of the school (emotional engagement)
- They take ownership of their learning and are personally invested in it (cognitive engagement).
When a child or young person does not demonstrate any of these characteristics, they are disengaged. For example, they may not be enrolled or attend school regularly.
When only some of these characteristics are present, a child or young person may be at risk of disengagement.
Factors that increase risk
Engagement can be influenced by a range of factors. A few of these are:
- Factors such as poverty, parental unemployment and/or low educational attainment, homelessness, transience or living away from home, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status, refugee background, family breakdown/relationship issues, and domestic violence.
- Personal factors such as physical or mental health issues, disabilities, behavioural issues, offending behaviors and/or involvement with the justice system, substance abuse or dependency, pregnancy or parenting, caregiving responsibilities, and learning disabilities.
- School-related factors, such as an unsupportive school culture, limited subject options, and lack of student participation in decision-making.
Multiple risk factors are often present in young people, which may be interdependent. As an example, a family breakdown may lead to substance misuse, which in turn may contribute to other problems such as offending behavior.
Risk factors have varying impacts on engagement, health, and wellbeing. Their resilience and protective factors like adult support can make a difference.
Even if one or more risk factors don’t necessarily mean a child or young person will become disengaged, it’s important to be aware of them. As a result, you’ll be able to identify and address issues early on.
What you should watch out for
These are indicators that a student may be at risk of disengaging at school:
- Attendance is erratic or non-existent
- a lack of literacy or numeracy
- low interest in school or intention to leave
- negative peer interactions
- aggressive behavior, violence, or social withdrawal
- markedly changed behavior, attitude, or performance.
Schools can use a variety of data and tools to identify students at risk of disengagement. Examples include:
- Information collected at the time of enrollment about family background, educational history, and personal issues
- attendance data
- Education, health, or welfare assessments completed in school or by Department support services (and external support services, when they have been provided to the school with the student’s and parent’s consent)
- reports from classroom teachers on learning and behavioral concerns